Why B2B sellers need better content for high-consideration SaaS sales – and how to get it

by | Jun 28, 2020

Do you think the content your company produces is exceptionally good?

Do your customers or prospects sometimes mention how great it is?

Would they miss your content if you stopped publishing it?

These are high standards for evaluating your company’s content.

But if you’re a SaaS enterprise seller, lobby hard for nothing less.

This article argues that it’s worth the effort for B2B SaaS sellers to help improve any content that’s less than exceptional.

It defines what content is and how sellers can use it.

It also suggests 5 ways sellers can contribute to making content better. 

Who should read this

This article is for sales leaders and chief revenue officers who are frustrated with the content their company creates.

It’s also for marketers who are tired of hearing endless criticism and poorly communicated expectations from sellers.

Why deal size matters

The article is especially relevant for companies that sell high-ticket software products to mid-sized and big companies.

That’s because you must invest more to win such deals.

The revenue is higher and commissions are bigger.

But the higher your price point, the fewer deals are likely to be available in the industries you serve.

Competition for bigger deals is also likely to be more intense.

 

Why deal size matters

The article is especially relevant for companies that sell high-ticket software products to mid-sized and big companies.

That’s because you must invest more to win such deals.

The revenue is higher and commissions are bigger.

But the higher your price point, the fewer deals are likely to be available in the industries you serve.

Competition for bigger deals is also likely to be more intense.

Risks are higher for both buyers and sellers

Bigger buying decisions involve more risk. So more people get involved on the customer side.

The buying process takes longer. And it’s more likely to result in a decision not to buy anything, to stay with the status quo.

An extended revenue team is likely to participate in each deal.

Besides sellers, the extended team may include presales consultants, product managers, implementation consultants, peer executives, and maybe more.

So selling costs are higher.

All this makes selling riskier for you as the vendor.

That’s because it’s so expensive to lose a deal you’ve worked hard and invested a lot of money to win.

Why content matters more now

The work of winning big deals has gotten trickier.

Sellers need every advantage they can bring to a deal. And they must maintain their advantages throughout the entire sales cycle.  

Exceptional content differentiates your company. That’s because so few companies produce it. It’s hard.

Great content can also help shorten long decision processes.

That reduces risk for you as a vendor.

B2B buying processes are changing fast

Between 2013 and 2018, well-known studies of buyer behavior suggested that business buyers do 50% to 80% of their research online before talking to a seller. 

But a more recent study, in 2019, found that just over 40% of respondents engaged with sellers within a month of starting  their research. (N=250 B2B executives, apparently in North America. See Source, below.)

A third  of respondents (33%) in the 2019 study said they accepted sellers’ invitations for conversations and demos during that first month of research.

The 2019 survey showed increases of 10 points over a survey from the same source a year earlier.

So the 2018 and 2019 surveys show that buyers are increasingly willing to meet with competent sellers earlier in their research process. 

You must help your buyers through whatever process they prefer

From the 2 recent studies, this new buying pattern was emerging before Covid-19: 

  • Buyers increasingly welcome early involvement of competent sellers.
  • Even in accounts that welcome sellers early, buyers are likely to do their own research through digital media.
  • Some decision influencers continue to prefer self-service options.

A preference for self service may be especially strong for C-suite executives.

Senior leaders often want less involvement with sellers until they’re close to making a final decision.

C-suite executives often do their own research online.

Buyers’ preferences and expectations may be diverse.

They’re likely to vary even within the same company, for the same buying decision. 

So you must prepare to satisfy buyers’ preferences, whatever they may be. 

Better vendor content offers  a better buying experience  

The 2019 study also says this:

  • The value of detailed content continues to rise.
  • Company websites are 2 of the first channels through which buyers engage with brands.
  • Having the right content helps sellers have deeper conversations earlier in the buyer’s decision process.

What distinguished the vendors who won the business of survey respondents?

  • About 6 in 10 respondents (61%) said it was very important that their chosen vendors provided higher-quality content than competitors.
  • Slightly more (63%) said it was very important that the content of the winning vendors was easy to consume.

Then came Covid-19. 

The trends in buyer behavior have sped up. 

With Covid-19, remote selling becomes the norm

In the short term, sellers are traveling less to meet with prospects. Some companies won’t receive sellers into their main office. 

Many buyers continue to work from home, so they are less available to meet face to face.

These factors have made remote selling essential.

Sellers must now communicate more effectively through remote channels and digital communications. 

More communications are asynchronous. This means that the seller sends something, and the buyer consumes it later.

Two-way conversations don’t necessarily occur in real time.  

More of the customer’s buying process occurs without a seller’s active participation 

Even before Covid-19, a seller who was actively engaged in an account was unlikely to participate in most of the prospect’s internal communications. 

The buying process that sellers saw was the tip of an iceberg.

Much more of the buyer’s process was invisible, unknown, and inaccessible to sellers. 

Today, even more than in the past, sellers need better ways to influence buying decisions without being directly involved. 

Sellers must be information concierges and content curators

Sellers can offer value to prospects throughout a long decision cycle by feeding their appetite for information.

Throughout a buying decision, sellers can tailor the information they offer to each influencer.  

Sellers can guide their contacts toward the right content.

What is the right content? 

It’s whatever information is most helpful at each stage of the buyer’s decision process.

What is content?

In the context of sales and marketing, content is any information that fits this description:

  • It addresses a specific target audience of prospects or customers.
  • Its purpose is to achieve a specific goal.
  • The goal is to help move the target audience toward a next action or a decision that’s beneficial for both buyer and seller.
  • It’s packaged in a format that’s interesting, helpful, and easy to consume.
  • It’s easily accessible to the target audience.

This definition should help you see why sellers and marketers must be equally obsessed with producing and delivering good content.

Effective content answers questions and addresses concerns during a prospect’s entire decision process

To offer a differentiated buying experience, sellers and marketers must try to answer these 2 questions:

How can we use information to help buyers make better decisions?
How can we do so in ways that are more efficient and effective for both buyers and sellers?

For complex sales, marketing content often has a crucial weakness

Marketing content may help bring opportunities to a seller’s doorstep.

But in complex sales, content is less likely to help the seller close a deal.

That’s because your sales team must answer dozens of questions throughout a customer’s decision process.

Sellers must also address dozens of concerns, objections, and perceptions of risk.

But few SaaS vendors have accumulated content assets detailed enough to help sellers with these needs.   

So here’s the critical weakness: 

Content from marketers is rarely detailed enough to address the many questions and concerns that arise in a complex buying decision.

Too many B2B marketers have drawn an arbitrary boundary line.

Their boundary defines where the marketer’s responsibility ends and the seller’s begins.

Once a seller accepts a lead, marketers often think it’s up to the seller to close the sale.   

Why sellers should demand more and better content

Sellers should demand content they can use throughout the customer’s entire decision process.

Why?

Because today content is the seller’s most efficient and effective tools to inform, educate, and influence prospects at every stage of their decision.

It’s also one of the seller’s best tools for building familiarity and trust – even when the seller isn’t directly involved with the customer.

You might say content is the grease that keeps sales moving.

Executed well, content speeds sales and reduces selling costs. It does so by removing friction for both buyers and sellers. 

The riskier and more complex a customer’s buying decision, the more obsessed sellers should be with providing top-quality content throughout it.

Where marketing content often goes wrong 

Here are 5 likely reasons why the content you get from marketing isn’t better:

  • Marketers often lack a written content strategy. Or maybe they have a written strategy they’ve developed without help from sellers.
  • Your company may measure marketing performance by metrics that encourage marketers to do the wrong things. So marketers may focus on creating content for lead generation over creating content that helps close sales. Your company’s metrics may also discourage marketers from doing more of the right things. So marketers may feel there’s no reward for understanding how customers make buying decisions. 
  • The people who create your content may lack subject-matter expertise. Your marketers have put content creation in the hands of junior people. Or they’ve outsourced it. Either way, it’s superficial and off target. 
  • Your marketers don’t have enough budgets or resources to produce better content.
  • Your marketers may use good tools, but they might use them superficially. They may “check the box” by using buyer personas and customer journey maps. But without deep insight from sellers, both tools are unlikely to help marketers understand the full complexity of a customer’s decision process.

What sellers can do to help produce better content

As sellers, you may not influence the 5 preceding obstacles – at least not directly.

But here are 4 others you can probably help overcome:

  • Your marketers don’t understand B2B complex sales.
  • Your marketers have little direct contact with your customers and prospects.
  • You (sellers) don’t participate enough in the process of creating content.
  • You don’t provide enough helpful guidance and feedback to marketers.

Here are 5 ways sellers can contribute to a solution: 

1. Collect insights about your customers’ decision processes. 

As you sell, note the questions your prospects ask.

Also note the concerns and objections they raise, and when they raise them.

You’ll see that questions and concerns shift at different stages.

List any problems, challenges, or sources of pain they’ve said they faced.

Document the goals or objectives your prospects want to achieve.

Finally, document KPIs by which their companies measure their job performance.

All these details will help marketers understand your customers and prospects – how they think, what drives them, and what they fear.

With this new understanding, your marketers can create content that addresses questions and concerns that arise throughout the entire buying process.

2. Help marketers understand your buyers’ complex decision processes.

Many B2B marketers don’t understand complex buying decisions. 

Do you record sessions with customers? Maybe you use Zoom or applications such as Chorus.ai or Gong.ai.

(In some states, you must be sure your customers know you’re recording them. In all states, it’s best to ask their permission.)

If you have recordings, encourage your marketers to listen to them.  

3. Encourage your marketers to learn directly from customers and prospects.

Encourage your marketers to do their own learning about customers and prospects–even when you aren’t present. 

Marketers will gather different information and insights when you aren’t involved.

4. Experiment by creating and promoting your own content. 

Does your company allow sellers to create and post content for social media?

If so, experiment with creating “micro content.”

This may include brief text, video, or audio posts to social media such as LinkedIn and Facebook. 

Test the content you create on preferred social media channels. And measure the results. Then share positive results with marketers.

For topics that achieve a high level of interest and engagement from your target audiences, marketers can build on themes that resonate.

5. Get more involved in creating content, from ideation through final approval.

Content creation may be the responsibility of marketers in your company,

But they they’re likely welcome your help if you offer it constructively. 

 

In summary, expect more from the content your company produces. 

But don’t think marketers can get it right without your help.

Give your marketing team and content creation the time and attention both deserve.

You’ll make your job so much easier in the long run. And you’ll serve your customers so much better. 

Source

.” Demand Gen Reports. June 2019. [Downloadable PDF. 23 pages. No charge.]

 

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